How to Choose the Right Shaft for a Golf Club

By Matthew DeBord

The shaft has been described as the "engine" of a golf club. It's the part of the club that, during the swing, bends and stores the energy that's released into the ball. The choice of shaft is just as important as the choice of clubhead design for an iron (cavity back, blade) or loft and size of a driver. Many golfers base their decision only on swing speed, but there are numerous other factors take into account. These days, shafts are made mainly of graphite or steel, and come in five basic flexes: A (senior), L (ladies), R (regular), S (stiff) and XS (extra-stiff). Graphite is used in both woods and irons, while steel is reserved for irons and wedges.

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderate
Step 1
Know your game. Are you a strong young male player who can swing the club hard? You will probably want stiff or extra-stiff shafts. Are you an older player who likes to swing easy but doesn't want to give up distance? More flexible A (senior) shafts might work better for you.
Step 2
Know your swing. Golfers with long, smooth swings will want a different shaft from players who have short, crisp swings.
Step 3
Research shaft options. Years ago, all shafts were steel and employed a basic design. Now, there are lots of different designs, many of which utilize graphite.
Step 4
Set aside time to sample a variety of shafts. The process will usually involve a clubfitter or professional. Ideally, you will try many different combinations of clubheads and shafts.
Step 5
Test out different shafts by hitting balls off of grass, if possible. This will more accurately predict how the shafts will perform than hitting off artificial-turf mats.

Tips & Warnings

It's okay to mix it up. For a period of time in his career, Jack Nicklaus played stiff steel shafts in most of the clubs, but used more flexible shafts in his wedges. Shaft fitting is now an intricate process. Manufacturers have created many different variations on the familiar A-L-R-S-XS flexes. A qualified clubfitter, along with some trial and error, can help sort it all out. Don't overlook the manufacturer's stock shafts. With so many shaft options, it can be tempting to try to fine-tune every club in the bag. But often, the manufacturer's standard shafts are just fine, and they can offer excellent performance without adding additional cost. You can always reshaft later. Hitting the ball too low with irons? Switching from stiff to regular flex shafts is often an easy way to cure this problem.
It's okay to mix it up. For a period of time in his career, Jack Nicklaus played stiff steel shafts in most of the clubs, but used more flexible shafts in his wedges.
Shaft fitting is now an intricate process. Manufacturers have created many different variations on the familiar A-L-R-S-XS flexes. A qualified clubfitter, along with some trial and error, can help sort it all out.
Don't overlook the manufacturer's stock shafts. With so many shaft options, it can be tempting to try to fine-tune every club in the bag. But often, the manufacturer's standard shafts are just fine, and they can offer excellent performance without adding additional cost. You can always reshaft later.
Hitting the ball too low with irons? Switching from stiff to regular flex shafts is often an easy way to cure this problem.
Greg Norman advises players of all levels to play the stiffest shafts they can handle. However, stiff doesn't always mean "stiff shaft." The stiffest shaft the average mid-handicap player can handle is usually a regular flex. Strong, young male players should focus on steel shafts for their irons. Most professionals agree that steel provides better consistency and control for powerful swings. Don't adjust your swing to fit the flex of you clubs. For example, if you're consistently hitting the ball left with your driver, but your swing mechanics seem okay, you might have too flexible a shaft.
Greg Norman advises players of all levels to play the stiffest shafts they can handle. However, stiff doesn't always mean "stiff shaft." The stiffest shaft the average mid-handicap player can handle is usually a regular flex.
Strong, young male players should focus on steel shafts for their irons. Most professionals agree that steel provides better consistency and control for powerful swings.
Don't adjust your swing to fit the flex of you clubs. For example, if you're consistently hitting the ball left with your driver, but your swing mechanics seem okay, you might have too flexible a shaft.

About The Author

Matthew DeBord has written about sports, cars, and wine since 1994 for a variety of publications. Formerly the golf columnist for the “Improper Hamptonian,” he has covered major championship tournaments and played some of the best courses in America. He graduated from Clemson University and has a master's degree from New York University.

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